This blog originally appeared on the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) website. PRGN is a connected network of 50 public relations firms serving key markets around the world. The author is Robert Bauter of our Austrian affiliate, asoluto.
Is a college degree necessary to work in PR? In my opinion, no, a formal certificate of any kind is not necessary to work and thrive in PR – as many agency owners, PR managers and employees without a degree can tell you from their experience.
But having said this, of course, there is something to add. While the certificate itself is just a piece of paper and the title is just a combination of a few letters, the meaning of a title and a certificate – and thus of a college degree – lies in the skills and qualifications it indicates. Those qualifications are more relevant than ever to a successful and satisfying career in the communications industry, but it’s all about those skills and not about where you earned them.
No matter what it is called in the various countries – college, universidad, université or วิทยาลัย – this kind of educational level implies that you have studied various techniques that are hugely important for PR pros like:
- Researching information – knowing which sources are promising, relevant and credible
- Assessing large amounts of information in a short time and finding out the main points and messages
- Being able to sum up dispersed information and quickly find the common points
- Learning to present and defend ideas, findings and results
- Critically interpreting results from surveys, studies and other sources to separate serious stuff from garbage
- The ability to introduce thoughts, lead discussions and convincing others to listen to you
- Anticipating questions, objections and resistance – and preparing the right answers and tactics
- Showing communicative intelligence by listening to others, respecting and valuing different opinions, while sticking with your own arguments
- Being able to listen to others patiently, to reflect yourself critically and to express yourself unmistakably
All those qualities are essential for a career in the vast field of media (and not only there!). It’s not important where you gain and train them but that you have them in your professional toolbox. You have them without a degree? Great, be proud of it. You have a college degree? Fine, but never forget that once you leave college, the journey only begins.
What’s your opinion on college degrees? Leave your comment below.
6 thoughts on “Is a college degree necessary to work in PR?”
Thanks, Robert – all good points that I will reiterate with my college and high-school aged kids!
Robert, thanks for a thoughtful blog. I agree that the world has changed but I guess I’m old school enough to think that a college degree still helps in every field. I found that for me, college didn’t just teach me usable facts, but it taught me how to think, how to problem solve and the art of critical thinking. I find those qualities in short supply in today’s work world. Cheers, David
Thank you friends for your feedback. I once had a colleague who was an incredible help, idea-bringer and sparring partner, all without any college degree. Still, I don’t want to miss that special years (oh so long ago) at the local university here. Yes, the degree is fine, but it’s like a seed: Whether it will grow depends on what you invest after planting.
Robert, as a recent(ish) graduate, I’m torn in two directions. I know that I use the skills I learnt during my four year university course in my day-to-day work. But is it worth the debt it has saddled me with? Probably an answer for society to answer, rather than the PR industry.
Thanks for sharing!
I firmly believe a college degree is vitally important. So much of PR is about making strategic decisions and thinking critically, which your college courses help you do. Additionally, most higher ed institutions require students to take part in an internship. This allows future PR pros to identify if the career is really for them.
It’s an interesting question, Robert. One other critical PR skill that I would add to your list for success in PR is being able to write clearly, concisely and compellingly. Written communication is our stock-in-trade, whether in email, Twitter, press releases or thought leadership compositions. And, while I suppose it’s possible to hone that skill through hard work and consistent coaching early in one’s career, I expect that it arises more readily via a college education.
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